News for April
Vector Art in Flash
A Harmonic Connection of Body and Soul
Vector Art in FlashBehind the Art
by Annie Rodrigue
This month, we will be stepping away of the traditional art realm and taking a peak at the digital world of art. Because, let’s face it, both the traditional and digital medias have their goods and their bads. One of my favorite elements of the digital tools now available to the artist has got to be vector art. The vector art I will be showing you all today might not be exactly what you are expecting. Some of you might not exactly like what I am going to say but I actually use vector art to cut corners. Yup, it saves me time!
What Is Vector Art?
Vector art, explained very simply, is a series of lines created with mathematical formulas. So if you were to draw vector lines, you would actually be creating a series of mathematical equations that would explain what you see on your screen. What’s so great about this is that if you want to zoom in or change the size (may it be bigger or smaller) of your line, the rendering of this line would remain the same. (ie: it would stay just as clean)
On the top, we have a vector line and on the bottom, a regular bitmap line. The bitmap line will always be limited to the resolution of the file (also called DPI or Dots Per Inch) and can only be zoomed in to a certain extent. When we try to resize a bitmap file to make it bigger, we will often start to see those nasty pixels.
Why Use Vector Art?
As mentioned before, there is the fact that you can change the size of your drawing without altering the quality of the line, but there is more. The fact that vectors lines are basically made of equations, it will also make a file much lighter, saving a lot of space on your computer. (compared to a bitmap where the file will contain coordinates of each pixel and its RVB or CMYK code. That’s a lot of information!)
I also personally love to use vector art to same me to hassle of having to ink my work and then try to scan it and clean it up again in Photoshop. The lines are never really clean with this method and blacks, never really black. Converting vector art to a Photoshop friendly format is easy and fast! Saves a lot of pain when you need to finish something quickly!
Illustrator or Flash?
Both can be used, but I decided to stick with Flash. Why? Because to me, it is more user friendly. I decided to go with this one for the current column, but it should also be doable with Illustrator. I might be wrong, but the last time I checked, Flash was more affordable than Illustrator. But some great package deals are offered with Adobe, so Illustrator might also be accessible to everyone.
A Nice Flash Vector Tutorial
I have this darling fanart I did that I will be using to explain how I work with Flash. I want to keep a fair warning before I start, because I know some of you might not like to draw directly with a tablet. There is a way to go around it with certain tools, but I recommend practicing with the tablet as it will give you more options.
a) Scanning your sketch
I plan on inking my drawing, so when I scan the sketch I want bitmap file to still be big enough so that I can see the details fairly well when I use it in Flash, so I scan my work at at least 300 DPI. Make sure that you can see the image fairly clearly, if not, increase the contrast a little bit. Save your image as a .jpg. You are ready to work in Flash.
b) Starting with Flash
As I am sure most of you are aware, Flash is an animation based program. But don’t let its working space confuse you too much. All of the tool one needs to vector ink its work is in the window. No need to browse around much!
Above is the tool box. Most of these tools are very similar to any other image software. The ones to keep an eye on: the black arrow (V) to move selected items around, the line tool (N), to create lines. The lasso (L) to select items, the brush (B) to paint and the eraser (E) to erase lines. These are the basic tool you will need to ink. The other tools are useful but for this tutorial, we will not need them.
Just like in Photoshop, you have a zoom tool and a hand too. Both use the same shortcuts than Photoshop. (CTRL + and CTRL – to zoom in and out, SPACE BAR for the hand)
In the Color box, you have a color selected for the lines (the color box with a pencil next to it) and one for filling shapes (the paint bucket logo). Remember that when you use the brush, the software considers it a fully color shape so the color of the paint bucket box will be selected to paint with. Simply make sure that you are using black in both the boxes for now and inking should be a breeze.
One last adjustment must be made before starting. Select the brush tool. You will see that the Options box will change for the following icons.
If you want the pressure of your tablet to be taken into consideration, you will need to click the “Use Pressure” icon (the top right icon). Below, the two scrolling windows will allow you to change the size of the brush and shape of the brush also.
c) The Timeline Box
What a confusing box! No need to worry too much. You will only need the first frame of that timeline, because we are not creating any animation. Leave it as it is for the moment. You will see that most of the icons on the left are similar to Photoshop. You have a add layer icon (that we will use since we are inking on top of the sketch). A garbage can if you need to delete a layer also. Each layer as the option of being invisible (with the eye icon) and be locked (with the lock icon)
d) Importing Your Sketch
Simply do: File / Import Find your way to your .jpg file then click Open. You will see that your file will appear in the Scene window. Do not worry about the image being bigger than the white space. It does not matter. Simply lock the layer with your sketch and create a new layer and call it “inking” (by double clicking the writing “layer 2”). Now is the time to save your file. (CTRL+S)
d) Inking Your Work
From there I usually simple select my brush, make sure I am on the right layer, and follow the lines. Since the “Use Pressure” icon is selected, the brush you allow you to do think and thin lines. (which is something I haven’t figured out how to do in Illustrator)
If you are not able to use a tablet, you can ink by using the Line tool. Simply select the line tool.
Under the Scene window, you will find the properties of you tool. Make sure the setting is as 0.25 making it the smallest size you can have. Easier to work with too.
Now simple trace a small line from one part of the sketch line to another part (like I just did with my character’s cheek) Now switch to the black arrow tool (simple type V to get this tool, type N to come back to the line tool. It will make things a lot faster!) and approach it to the line until you see a small curve appearing next to your black arrow. When it does, simply click on the line and move it around. You will see that the line will take the curve you want. Pull it so that it follows the sketch.
You can do this for all of the inking of your drawing. Make sure you save often!
e) Exporting In .AI
The .AI format is the Illustrator format. Since this is a standard format that can be imported in Photoshop or Illustrator afterword, this is the one I use. Remember that saving in a vector format like .AI will allow you to open it in whatever size you wish after. This can turn out to be very useful. But know that if you wish so, you can also export the inking in .BMP, .JPG, .PNG, .EPS and .GIF also.
Before exporting, one last step must be done. You will need to delete the sketch layer.
To export: File / Export Image. Select the format (in this case .AI). Click save. You will have the option of a few Illustrator formats. Choose the Illustrator 5.0 option, as it seems to be the less buggy one.
e) Importing in Photoshop
Now you have a clean line ready to be colored. Since I personally love to color in Photoshop, I usually import it there. Simply open the file. Photoshop will ask you what size you would like the file to be. You can to choose resolution, height and length. There is not limit but your computer, so you can resize your original inking to your liking. Of course, by importing it in Photoshop, you are turning a vector line into a bitmap line. But you could very well keep it vectorized and color it in Flash or Illustrator also. This is all up to you! Simply know that inking with vectors will give you the opportunity to have clean work that can be resized without altering the quality of the art.
It’s a powerful and useful tool! I hope some of you will put it to good use! Good Luck!
Next month, we will be taking a look at references. Photo references, life models. How to use them all, how to create your own. The good and the bad that can come from it also!
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